Section I. Religious Demography
The U.S. government estimates the total population at 68.2 million (July 2016 estimate). According to the 2010 census, the population is 93 percent Buddhist and 5 percent Muslim. NGOs, academics, and religious groups state that 85 to 95 percent of the population is Theravada Buddhist and 5 to 10 percent Muslim. Groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include animists, Christians, Confucians, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, and Taoists.
Most Buddhists also incorporate Hindu and animist practices into their worship. The Buddhist clergy (sangha) consists of two main schools of Theravada Buddhism, Mahanikaya and Dhammayuttika. The former is older and more prevalent within the monastic community. The same religious hierarchy governs both groups.
Islam is the dominant religion in four of the five southernmost provinces (Narathiwat, Yala, Satun, and Pattani) near the Malaysian border referred to as the “Deep South.” The majority of Muslims in those provinces are ethnic Malay, but the Muslim population nationwide also includes descendants of immigrants from South Asia, China, Cambodia, and Indonesia, as well as ethnic Thai. Statistics provided by the Religious Affairs Department (RAD) of the Ministry of Culture indicate that almost all Muslims (99 percent) are Sunni.
The majority of ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese practice either Mahayana or Theravada Buddhism. Many ethnic Chinese, as well as members of the Mien hill tribe, also practice forms of Taoism.
The majority of Christians are ethnic Chinese, and more than half of the Christian community is Roman Catholic.